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Advocates: Vouchers living up to expectations

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Nearly 4,000 students who formerly attended public schools are receiving tax money to help pay the cost of private school under Indiana's school voucher program, which is believed to be the nation's largest, officials say.

Advocates say the voucher program is meeting expectations in its first year, despite a late start due in part to a legal challenge. Although the program's first-year cap of 7,500 was not reached, its proponents say that they're pleased with the level of participation.

"We had only a short window to implement the program," School Choice Indiana Executive Director Lindsey Brown told the Evansville Courier & Press. "We were never concerned we were going to hit the cap."

Gov. Mitch Daniels and the GOP-led General Assembly this year gave Indiana the nation's broadest private-school voucher program in the country. Supporters say voucher programs give parents more choices about where to send their children and force public schools to be more competitive, but opponents say they drain funding from the public school system and wrongly divert public money to private religious institutions. A group of teachers and religious leaders is suing to overturn the law.

Under the new program, vouchers can cover up to 90 percent of the cost of tuition, depending on a family's income. The actual value of the vouchers is less than the amount of tax money a public school would have received for that student. The maximum value for students in first through eighth grade is $4,500.

School Choice Indiana says 85 percent of the students who have received vouchers qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and 53 percent are minorities.

Sixty-nine percent of voucher recipients are from metropolitan areas, while 16 percent are from suburbs and 15 percent are from rural areas.

Indiana's program will be limited to 7,500 students this coming school year and 15,000 next year, but then there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll as long as their parents fall within income limits. Families of four currently earning up to about $60,000 a year could receive them.

"We're not super-concerned about hitting the cap, but the longer the program is in place, the easier it will be to spread the word," Brown said. "I think you'll see it grow quite expansively."

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  • Agree
    Yes, Private education is a choice. That is why the voucher program is a good decision, it allows you to make that choice.
  • Agree
    Yes, Private education is a choice. That is why the voucher program is a good decision, it allows you to make that choice.
  • Vouchers
    I hate seeing my tax dollars used to pay tuition for Private/Parochial Schools. Private education is a choice and tuition has always been a part of that decision. Why reimburse those folks now!!! State cannot afford it!

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    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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